New York: Restricting excessive consumption of added sugars may represent an early and important target by which non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD) risk can be reduced among children, said researchers.
The study, published recently in the journal Pediatric Obesity, indicated that NAFLD is associated with both a lack of exercise and excessive consumption of sucrose, the scientific name for table sugar, which is comprised of both fructose and glucose.
While both are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and grains, they are often an additive to many processed foods.
“The prevalence of fatty-liver disease is escalating not only in adults, but also in children,” said researcher Johanna DiStefano, Professor at the al Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
“Like Type-2 diabetes, NAFLD used to be considered a disease that developed only in adulthood, but that is no longer true,” DiStefano added.
Glucose, absorbed in the intestines, is the body’s preferred carbohydrate-based energy source. Fructose must first be converted by the liver into glucose before the body can use it for energy.
An earlier study, led by DiStefano, showed that fructose increased gene expression, altered proper cell function, and often led to liver disease.
For this study, the research team focused on studies that linked excessive fructose intake to children with NAFLD, interventions that restricted fructose, and identification of related metabolic biomarkers.
“By getting a better handle on diagnosis and disease severity, we will have a more individualized approach to management where some kids will respond well to diet and exercise while others may need a more aggressive intervention,” said researcher Gabriel Shaibi from the Arizona State University.
The reviewers indicate that additional studies are needed to understand both the short- and long-term effects of high fructose consumption and the development of NAFLD among children.
However, they suggest that “efforts to reduce global consumption of added sugars in the diet would most certainly yield a positive impact on overall health in youth due to its relative simplicity and focus on a single behaviour.”